Moses Complains That His Burden Is Too Heavy

Numbers 11:4-23



How are you getting on with the 52 Days of Prayers so far?



In our 52 Days of Prayers we have already heard about Abraham bargaining with God for the people of Sodom. We've heard about Abraham's grandson Jacob, who exchanged promises with God. And then after that, God changed Jacob's name to Israel and the nation of Israel grew from his 12 sons, one of whom was called Joseph.


He was the one with the coloured coat who was sold into slavery in Egypt, and many years later became Pharaoh's right hand man.


After that, Jacob's family settled in Egypt where they eventually became slaves to the Egyptians. There were some dramatic plagues that ended with Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and into the desert.


Yesterday, we read about Moses prayer asking God to teach him His ways and for God to go with them in the desert. In the desert, things don't go so well for the Israelites. They seem to have a really short memory. First of all, they moan because they don't have any food, so God miraculously provides something called manner that appears on the ground whenever the dew begins to settle. It was ground into flour and made into bread and cakes.


And then the people were thirsty and complained again until God causes water to flow out of a rock. And now they don't just want bread, In fact they are sick of manna, they want meat as well.


It says that there is a rabble with them and this probably, included children of Hebrew women by Egyptian fathers; many of whom may have become servants to the Israelites, used to fetch and carry wood and water and things like that. They may have had more experience of eating other foods than the Israelites and could have been the ones responsible for stirring up the trouble in the first place.


They are completely dramatic about it all crying that they should have been left in Egypt where they were ill treated, beaten, and were slaves, but they list off a range of foods that they are missing.


Moses becomes frustrated with them, and becomes equally dramatic, asking God to take his life instead of having to deal with all of this burden. And then God appears to become frustrated himself.


He tells Moses to identify 70 people who will share not only the burden, but also God's Spirit. Now numbers in the Bible are often significant. So I looked it up online and, and it said that, here seven may represent the promise that God has made to Israel and 10 may represent perfection. So 70 might represent the fulfilment of God's promise.


God, then tells Moses to tell the Israelites to prepare themselves to go through the special ceremonial washing, so that they are ready for God to do something amazing. God is going to give them the meat that they asked for, but he is going to give them so much meat that they won't know what to do with it all. So much meat, that they will be sick of it. So much meat, that they will want to become vegetarians.


Moses is cautious though. He points out that there are 600,000 men in the party. And that probably doesn't even include the women and the children. But God replies with a question. He says, Are you saying that my arm is too short? In other words, am I not big enough? Do you think that I can't stretch that far? Do you think I would have told you I was going to do something that I couldn't do?


I imagine God just rolling his eyes.


What do I think is good about these verses? What do I like about this passage?

  • Well, despite of or because of Moses complaints, God addresses his needs. Abraham calls God Jehovah Jireh, which means God, who provides.

  • I also like that God ignores Moses cries for death. Moses still has work to do for God, and Moses will get over this and feel better at some point.

  • And then the third thing I like is about the Spirit of God being passed on. These respected community members were probably useful for supporting Moses, and for setting a tone or attitude among the Israelites. And you could think that Moses would then have less Spirit, If some has been given away but that's not true. If you have a candle and use it to light 70 other candles. The first candle is no less bright afterwards.


What did I find difficult about this passage of Scripture? What did I find hard about it?

  • Well I had thought that the Israelites had flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, and I couldn't understand why they hadn't eaten any of those. And when I looked it up I read that those sheep and cattle were used for ceremony and sacrifice, not necessarily for eating, unless it was a special occasion. The sheep and cattle were also needed for the dairy element of their diet.

  • And then I wanted to know more about the food that the Israelites ate in Egypt, The writers at the time, talk about how abundant the fish were that swam in the Nile and the canals that lead into it. All the other food listed in the passage are listed by their Egyptian names, and they are all typical peasant foods at the time. Incidentally the leeks listed were not leeks like the onion type vegetable that we might recognise here in the UK. Instead it's a type of grass or clover, that is unique to Egypt.

  • And then I don't like that EVERY family was moaning and complaining dramatically. And in saying that they wish they had never left Egypt, what they're really saying is that they don't want to have anything to do with God. They are rejecting the one that they cried out to, to save them.

  • It appears that the manner is actually very tasty, and a useful versatile substance. So it is not that the people don't have enough food, but it's more that they don't appreciate what they have got.

  • Moses felt a heavy burden that he didn't feel up to carrying. Well, I can relate to that, and I bet some of you can relate to that too. I don't feel qualified to do these Bible studies, but our feelings don't always reflect reality.

  • And finally I find that Moses' response is disappointing too. Instead of quashing the moaning and complaining he does some griping of his own, even asking God to kill him. Now, I'm not sure but it sounds to me like Moses is almost implying that he's doing God's job for him. And then he questions God's ability to feed everyone.


So then what does this story, tell me about God?

  • It tells me that God is patient, but his patience is not endless. He also gets frustrated when I test him and refuse to trust him.

  • But God meets our needs, and provides in abundance. He knows what is best for us. And when we are ready to give in, but we still have a part to play. He answers "No" to our prayer.


So what does this story, tell me about me?

  • Just as God instructed Moses to identify 70 men to support him. I need friends around me and not just any friends. They need to be respected friends who carry the Holy Spirit.

  • And then whining and complaining is not flattering, or appealing. I can acknowledge when things are difficult or when I don't have enough, But I should also acknowledge and be grateful for everything that I already have. And when others are moaning and complaining I should resist the urge to join in, and instead turn the mood to one of gratitude.


Finally, what do I need to go and do about it?

Well, I will check my feelings against the truth and acknowledge that when my feelings are preventing me from doing what God says, then, I probably shouldn't listen to those feelings.

And then I should be thankful for what God has already given me, I need an attitude of gratitude.


So today in my prayers, I will let God know what I am thankful for.